After making the Pro Bowl in 2007, being given a seven-year, $45 million contract in the offseason and the starting job for the first time heading into 2008, Cowboys running back Marion Barber had hoped for a real coming-out party last season.
But that was before he played through injuries for much of the year, including a painful dislocated toe that limited him to 23 carries over the final five games of the season.
Barber rushed for just 865 yards, averaged a career low 3.5 yards per carry and scored just seven touchdowns after 24 the previous two seasons.
He also had to deal with the ignominy of having owner Jerry Jones question his toughness when he didn't suit up for a game against the Steelers in December.
Barber, who is defined by his barbaric running style, declined to talk about Jones' statement. But he acknowledged that it was the most difficult season of his career.
"It was frustrating," the normally soft spoken Barber said.
"But you have to learn to deal with it come back stronger."
Stronger and better than ever is what Barber plays to be this season. He said he is healthy and feeling like himself again.
"I feel great...I can't even describe it," Barber said. "That's how good I feel. I am just looking forward to playing and playing like myself."
-- Clarence E. Hill Jr.